When you buy a product, you have a basic right as a consumer to rely on the implied safety of the product. Companies have an obligation to design and manufacture safe products and give appropriate notice of their dangers — when they fail to do so, you have a right to seek action.
The chain of responsibility that follows dangerous and defective products from the market to the end user is complicated and slippery, and often counter-intuitive. But the U.S. has robust laws to protect consumer rights in all the ways they can be trampled. An experienced law firm like McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt can be key to unlocking the costs of a product that companies and retailers try to pass on to consumers.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration top ten recalls, 2014. Source: Wikipedia
When These Products Malfunction, Watch Out
In every product purchase, there is a tacit agreement between those who design, manufacture, market and sell a product and those who buy it. Users of products must be ensured of safety while using the product in the proper manner — in cases where the costs of proper use were not revealed to users, those hurt are entitled to fair compensation.
In McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt’s 30 years of consumer advocacy, the firm has acted on behalf of people hurt by all manner of product. The following examples are among the most common.
- Auto defects and crashworthiness: Auto recalls are a fact of life in the U.S. — the number of recalled vehicles crossed the 50 million mark in 2014. These are often for manufacturing flaws that only show up over time and in rare circumstances, surrounding important safety functions like the deployment of airbags.
- Button battery ingestion: When a parent buys a toy for their young child, they are relying on the diligence of the toy maker to keep their child safe. Parents know to keep away objects that can be swallowed from infants and toddlers, but a toy with an accessible button battery can prove to be a Trojan horse. Each year, American emergency rooms see 3,000 cases of button battery ingestion — but undetected ingestions are often far more damaging.
- Power tools: Each year an estimated 400,000 emergency room visits result from the use of power tools. Some of these accidents are caused by manufacturers’ defects, design defects and errors in documentation — which are also responsible for hundreds of thousands of product recalls each year.
- Smoke detectors: Smoke detectors are another product where malfunctions can be deadly. As they are only needed on rare occasions, such defects are often observed too late to avert tragedy.
Source: Publicdomainpictures.net, shared under Creative Commons Zero license
The 3 Main Dangers of Defective Products
When products used in their intended fashion are found to cause harm, the problem can usually be traced to one of three shortcomings — all of which are protected against by federal law.
- Manufacturing defects: These defects happen during the manufacturing process and were never intended to be part of the product. This type of defect is typically only found in a small percentage of a company’s manufactured goods, but manufacturers are still liable for such defects.
- Design defect: A design defect is a flaw built into the design of a product, and will typically be found in all of a company’s manufactured products.
- Failure to warn: In addition to assuring the proper functioning of a product, those in the chain of distribution can be liable if warnings or instructions could have prevented injury from foreseeable risks — or if the warnings themselves, when followed properly, caused the injury.
Types of Product Liability Lawsuits
There are three main avenues to pursuing justice in product liability lawsuits. They break down in the following ways:
- Negligence: In claims of negligence, a lawsuit must show that a defect occurred because of negligence in the product development process — caused by poor design, testing or errors in the manufacturing process.
- Strict liability: Most product liability cases are pursued in terms of strict liability — only needing to prove that a defect in the product exists and an injury was sustained as a result. For strict liability to be applicable, a product must have been bought new and not secondhand.
- Breach of warranty: A product’s warranty covers both the expressed terms of the product’s warranty, and those implied — that intended use will not cause harm to the user.
Who is Responsible for an Unsafe Product?
Consumer safety laws protect consumers from malfeasance throughout the chain of distribution, and apply to manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Plaintiffs don’t need to pick and choose amongst the separate parties responsible for a product, as the law extends through the distribution chain.
When to Consult with an Experienced Product Liability Attorney
At McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt, we have over 30 years of experience in litigating product liability cases. We take all claims on a contingency basis, and will only charge you attorney fees if we are able to obtain financial compensation for your losses.
McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt welcomes clients local to our Philadelphia offices and those from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and further afield. To schedule a meeting for a free consultation, fill out our form or call us directly at 1-800-590-4116.